Okra – nutrition, proven health benefits, uses


The scientific  name of the okra is Abelmoschus esculentus (Linn.) Moench. It is also known as Lady’s fingers, and Gumbo.

Other names include

ARABIC: Bâmyah.
CHINESE: Ka fei huang kui, Yue nan zhi ma, Yang jiao dou, Hu ma, Qiu kui.
BURMESE: You padi.
CROATIAN: Jedilna oslez.
DUTCH: Okra.
FRENCH: Gombo, Gombeaud, Bamie-okra, Ketmie comestible (Belgium).
GERMAN: Ocker.
GREEK: Bamies. Bamia.
HEBREW: Bamiya, Hibiscus ne’echal.
HINDI: Bhindee, Dheras, Bandakai, Vendakai.
HUNGARIAN: Gombó, Bámia.
ITALIAN: Gombo, Ocra, Bammia d’Egitto, Corna di Greci .
JAPANESE: Amerika neri, Kiku kimo, Okura.
KHMER: Pôôt barang.
KOREAN: Oh k’u ra.
LAOTIAN: Khüa ngwàng.
MALAY: Bendi, Kacang bendi, Kacang lender, Sayur bendi , Kacang lendir , Kachang bendi, Kopi arab.
NEPALESE: Van lasun.
NORWEGIAN: Grønsakhibisk
POLISH : Czyli okra, Ketmia jadalna.
PORTUGUESE: Gambô, Quiabo, Quibombô, Quibombó.
RUSSIAN: Bamiia.
SANSKRIT: Tindisa.
SPANISH: Gombo, Ají turco, Quimbombo, Ocra, Ruibarbo.
TAMIL: Vendaikkaay.
THAI: Krachiap, Ton krachiap, Krachiap khieo, Krachiap mon, Bakhua mun.
TURKISH: Bamya .
URDU: Bhindii.

Okra is a coarse, erect, branched, more or less hairy, annual herb, 0.6 to 1.5 meters high. Leaves are long-petioled, orbicular or orbicular-ovate, about 25 centimeters long or less; with a heart-shaped base; the margins, 3- to 5-lobed. Petioles are equal to the blade in length or longer. Flowers are axillary and solitary; corolla, large and yellow, and inside, deep purple at the base. Fruit is elongated, 10 to 25 centimeters long, 1.5 to 3 centimeters in diameter, tapering to a blunt point and containing rows of rounded, kidney shaped seeds.


– Fruit contains abundant pectin; mucilage; starch; some fat, 4%; water, 80.7%; and ash, 1.41%.

– Seeds yield: palmitic acid, 27.33%; stearic acid, 2.75%; arachidic acid, 0.05%; oleic acid, 43.74%; linolic acid, 26.62%; unsaponifiable matter, 0.37%.

– Roots yield gum, 16%; and the seeds yield vitamin C.

– Distillation of leaves with water yield an essential oil, which in time solidifies as a crystalline camphor allied to menthol and called ‘Basil-camphor.

– Proximate value per 100 g of edible portion yields water 90.17g, energy 31 kcal, protein 2.00 g, total lipid 0.10 g, ash 0.70 g, carbohydrate 7.03 g, total dietary fiber 3.2 g, total sugars 1.2 g, sucrose 0.40 g, glucose 0.13 g, fructose 0.21 g, starch 0.34 g.

– Mineral analysis per 100 g edible portion yielded Ca 81 mg, Fe 0.8 mg, Mg 57 mg, P 63 mg, K 303 mg, Na 8 g, Zn 0.60 mg, Cu 0.094 mg, Mn 0.990 mg, Se 0.7 mg.

– Vitamin analysis per 100 g edible portion yielded vitamin C 21.1 mg, thiamin 0.02 mg, riboflavin 0.60 mg, niacin 1.0 mg, pantothenic acid 0.245 mg, vitamin B 60.215 mg, total folate 88 mg, total choline 12.3 mg, ß-carotene 224 mg, vitamin A 375 IU, vitamin E (a-tocopherol) 0.36 mg, vitamin K (phylloquinone) 53 mg.

Medicinal properties of okra

– Whole plant is aromatic, with an odor resembling cloves.

– Demulcent, emollient, sudorific, cooling, carminative, stimulant, cordial, antispasmodic.

– Very mucilaginous when cooked.

– Mucilage considered to have an aphrodisiac effect.

– Seeds considered antispasmodic, cordial and stimulant.

Parts utilized

Roots, leaves, young pods, seeds.

Edibility / Nutrition

· Fruit is edible.

· Prepared in a variety of ways; an ingredient of soups and stews.

· Very mucilaginous when cooked.

· Fair source of iron, vitamin A and C; good source of calcium.

· Also contains thiamine and riboflavin.

· Seeds occasionally used a coffee substitute.

Folkloric traditional medicine uses and remedies with okra

· Decoction of roots and leaves as a tea or for washing.

· Decoction of young fruit useful for catarrh, urinary problems.

· Syrup from mucilaginous fruit used for sore throat.

· Infusion of roots used for syphilis.

· Poultice of roots and leaves for wound healing.

· Young pods for fevers, difficult urination and diarrhea.

· Decoction of roots for headaches, varicose veins, arthritis, fevers.

· Decoctions of leaves for abdominal pain.

· Decoction of immature fruit used as demulcent and emollient poultice.

· Decoction of leaves and flowers used for treatment of bronchitis and pneumonia.

· Leaves also useful as emollient poultice.

· Mucilage prepared from roots and leaves used for gonorrhea.

· Infusion of fruit mucilage used for treating dysentery and diarrhea, inflammation and stomach irritation.

· Fruit used as demulcent in gonorrhea and dysuria.

· Paste of seeds, mixed with milk, used for pruritic skin lesions.

· In Turkey, leaves used in preparation of medicine to reduce inflammation.

· In India, decoction of young fruit used for catarrh and urinary troubles. Also used for fevers, catarrhal attacks, genitourinary irritations such as dysuria, gonorrhea and leucorrhea, and in cases associated with scaling, pain, and difficulty passing urine.

· Bland mucilage used for dysentery, usually as soup.

· Seeds and tender pods eaten for spermatorrhea.

· Mucilage from from fruits and seeds of fresh, bruised capsules make an efficient, emollient poultice.

· Fruit decoction used as soothing demulcent remedy for throat irritations associated with coughing.

· Infusion of toasted seeds used for sudorific effect.

· Hindus consider the aromatic seeds as cooling, tonic, and carminative.

· In Annam, seeds considered antispasmodic.

· In the Antilles and Guiana, seeds considered stimulant, cordial, and antispasmodic.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of okra


Anti-ulcerogenic activity of some plants used as folk remedy in Turkey: Five herbal remedies, including H esculentus, were studied for anti-ulcerogenic activity. All extracts exhibited significant gastroprotective effects.

Anti-H Pylori Adhesion / Antiadhesive Property:

Glycosylated compounds from okra inhibit adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric mucosa: A polysaccharide isolated from the fresh juice showed strong inhibitory effects and an antiadhesive activity with blocking of the Helicobacter surface receptors. (2) Standardized aqueous fresh extract from immature okra fruits was evaluated for a quantitative in vitro adhesion assay. Results showed dose-dependent inhibition of H. pylori binding to AGS cells. Non-specific interactions between high molecular compounds from okra fruits and the H. pylori surface lead to strong antiadhesive effects.

Antioxidant / Hepatoprotective:

(1) Antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect of the roots of Hibiscus esculentus Linn: The ethanol extract of HE roots showed excellent scavenging effect on free radicals and hepatoprotective effects.

(2) In antioxidant assays of five vegetables, strong activity was seen with okra fruit.

Mucilage / Suspending Agent:

Study showed that the mucilage of A esculentus may be used as a pharmaceutical adjuvant and as a suspending agent and other pharmaceutical applications, as a gelling, emulsifying or disintegrating agent.

Reversible Male Reproductive Effects:

Study results showed the oral administration of methanol fruit extract of A esculentus produced a reversible reduction in male fertility in rats. There was significant reduction of gross sperm motility, count and life/dead ratio with an increase in abnormal sperm cell in the semen sample.

Review / Nutritional Healing Properties in Diabetes:

In a literature review, the healing properties of AE were: (1) Alkaline reaction, soothes irritated membrane of the intestinal tract, lowering of blood sugar, facilitates healing of burns and any kind of skin rashes (2) Mucilaginous texture soak up the unhealthy cholesterol, toxin and mucous waste from the GI tract; acts as a laxative, facilitating ulcer healing and reduction of gastric reflux, antioxidant, anticancer and promoting cardiovascular health.


In a research framework to study the hypoglycemic effects of a water extract of AE in streptozoticin-induced diabetic rats, the findings of expected results from the experiment may reveal underlying mechanism of diabetic pathophysiology, suggesting a new potential target for drug discovery.

Antidiabetic / Antihyperlipidemic / Toxicity Study:

Study of peel and seed powder of Abelmoschus esculentus showed antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic effects in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Toxicity study showed no signs and mortality at dose level of 2000 mg kbw.

CNS Depressant / Analgesic / Root:

Study evaluated a root extract of A. esculentus for CNS depressant and analgesic activity. Significant decrease in locomotor activity was observed. There was significant and dose-dependent reduction of writhing reflex in the acetic acid-induced writhing test and linking response in the formalin induced inflammatory pain. Results suggest analgesic and CNS depressant activity.

Hepatoprotective / CCl4-Induced Injury:

Study evaluated a root extract for hepatoprotective effect on CCl4-intoxicated HepG2 cell line and Wistar rats. Results showed a hepatoprotective effect attributed to its antioxidant capacity.

Analgesic / Fruit:

Study of methanolic and aqueous extract of fruit showed significant analgesic activity using tail immersion method in rats.

Anti-Helicobacter pylori Activity:

Study evaluated the anti-helicobacter pylori activity of methanol and hexane extracts of AE dried fruits on 41 clinical isolates. The methanol extract showed inhibitory effects with no noticeable zone of inhibition with the hexane extract.

Hepatotoxicity Concern:

Study showed exposure to Abelmoschus esculentus (500 mg/kbw) and Piper guineense (20 mg/kbw and above) induced adverse and detrimental effects on the liver architecture in rat model.

Diuretic Potential:

Study evaluated the diuretic potential of plant decoctions of A. esculentus, C. frutescens and C. olitorius in white rats. Results showed all three had diuretic potential comparable to furosemide.

Anti-Diabetic / α-Amylase and α-Glucosidase Enzyme Inhibitory Effects:

Study evaluated aqueous extracts of okra peel and seed for antidiabetic activity through inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase enzymes. Results showed concentration dependent inhibitory effect.

Alteration of Gastric Mucus Secretion / Gastroprotective / Seed Mucilage:

Study showed mucilage of A. esculentus significantly inhibits ulcer induced by indomethacin, ethanol, and water immersion stress. The cytoprotection may be through the formation of a protective layer with increase in mucous secretion from the superficial epithelial cells.

Antitumor Effect / Human Breast Cancer Cells / Lectin:

Study evaluated a newly discovered lectin isolated from okra for anti-tumor effects. Results showed the AEL induced significant cell growth inhibition (63%) in MCF7 cells, with increased expression of pro-apoptotic caspase-3, caspase-9 and p21 genes. Findings suggest a potential therapeutic for human breast cancer.

Antiproliferative and Proapoptotic in B16F10 Melanoma Cells:

Study studied the effects of okra RG-1 (rhamnogalacturonan) obtained from okra pods on melanoma cell growth and survival in vitro. Results showed okra RG-1 induces apoptosis in melanoma cells by interacting with Gal-3. The interaction suggests potential for new melanoma therapies.


Study evaluated the antimicrobial properties of lyophilized and fresh water extracts of fresh okra pods against Rhodococcus erythopolis, R. opacus, Mycobacterium sp. and M. aurum, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Xanthobacter Py2. The extracts were effective against all bacterial strains except for R. erythropolis, and the fresh water extract was better than the lyophilized extract. Activity was attributed to the two major constituents of the lipid fraction, palmitic and stearic acids.

Anticancer and Antimicrobial Effect / Gold Nanoparticles:

In vitro findings suggest that pulp synthesized Au NPs can significantly elevate intracellular reactive oxygen species and diminish mitochondrial membrane potential, indicating effective involvement of apoptosis in cell death. The Au NPs also showed sufficient degree of antimicrobial activity against different types of bacteria.

Safety Evaluation / Pod Extracts:

Study evaluated various extracts of pod extract polysaccharides (OKPs) in vitro and in vivo toxicity studies in mice. Findings of the preliminary study suggest that in both acute and sub chronic studies OKPs is a safe pharmaceutical excipient.

Analgesic/ Anti-Inflammatory / CNS Depressant / Seeds:

Study of methanolic extract of seeds showed analgesic (acetic acid induced writhing model and formalin induc4d licking and biting in mice), anti-inflammatory (carrageenan induced model) and CNS depressant activity (locomotor and exploratory activities in hole cross and open fields testing).

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